Today it is an honor and pleasure for me to introduce a new TSM contributor. Never Contrary was gracious enough to provide this fantastic post. Never Contrary has an amazing voice for social justice and understands the intersections of oppression and why we must change systems. There are many times when I am in awe of Never Contrary’s voice and ability to speak truth to power. In this first article by Never Contrary, the Voucher system is exposed as the tool to gut public schools and create a classist society where only the wealthy may benefit from an education. For me this article addresses so many different issues all at once: class, race, gender, and–because Never Contrary is part of the LGBT community–multiple identities experiencing oppression.
Louisiana is consistently in the bottom three states in education every year. It is quite apparent that change is needed. Change has come.
I will start at the beginning. Three years ago I walked into my principal’s office. I was given a login to a program that included every kid I had taught in the past two years and their grades in my courses and state tests. I asked what this was for and was told it was for an upcoming law that would track student performance to their teachers. I found it odd that the state had not only already paid for the computer program to be built but was already using it before the laws had even begun discussions in the legislature. Flash forward three years. The news laws are finally being discussed. I knew that of course they would pass, as they had already been paid for. The whole debate was simply a show.
What exactly passed?
A voucher system. This will allow students in failing schools to have access to a scholarship to attend any private school of their choosing. Including the school in North Louisiana that believes that the proof that evolution is false is the Loch Ness monster. I wish I was making this up.
Each student that leaves a public school takes their money with them. In October, the private school receives the money from the state. At that point the school can kick the student out for behavior, or grades, or frankly anything, and the student goes back to public school. The private schools keep the money, of course. There will be no accountability for the private schools in any way about what they are doing with the students while their attend their schools.
Students that stay in public schools are now being tracked. It is being called “value added.” Teachers are given a score every year. Half of that score is your evaluation from your administrator. Because those reviews with your boss are always fair and free of the politics of the work place, of course. The other half comes from a score based on your students’ state scores that year, their attendance, their socio-economic background, their scores the previous year, etc. These scores will then be tied into teacher’s pay. It has yet to be decided exactly how.
The tenure program has also been axed. In order to receive tenure, a teacher must perform in the top 5% of their district for five out of six consecutive years. If a teacher has two years of unacceptable scores they will be terminated regardless of past performance.
Teachers can go through a rigorous process to become national board certified. It is very challenging to pass. Only the best teachers are able to. It used to come with a $5,000 pay raise, as motivation for teachers to improve their craft. The governor also took this away. Why reward the excellent teachers, when you can just punish the bad ones? Of course the state superintendent of education in Louisiana makes $349,249.00 a year.